Stephen Dunn

Hawthorne in Tuckerton


Like the other great ones he wouldnt vanish

into his own destiny, kept showing up

in different parts of America, small pious towns

like this one, wooded, where he trusted

that what thumped in the human heart

would manifest, make its old nightly rounds.

Scratch an American, he was overheard saying

at the diner, and youll find a Puritan.

And one man nodded while another

in a John Deere cap swallowed hard,

changed the subject to the Phillies.

Hawthorne still loved the repressed, the avoided.

Nothing made him more alert than a large passion

twisted, coiled in the recesses of an innocent.

But something had changed.

People camped without fear in the piney forest,

were simply amused by tales of the Jersey Devil.

And Tuckerton now had its Seaport. Its Dimmesdales

and Rappacinis had a stake in the market.

Their daughters wore lipstick and openly danced

to loud music. Hawthorne began to feel like the ghost

he was. Grace, he lamented, was once so poignant

before this democratization of the sacred. Adulterly

so much more interesting when everyone didnt commit it.